It was hardly the kind of performance Chivas USA was looking for, but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. And the Goats were more than lucky Saturday night, pulling out a wild 3-2 triumph at New England, a result that easily could have gone the other way.
Alejandro Moreno, making his first start since returning from Copa America, netted two goals, Nick LaBrocca added a goal and an assist and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy added to his growing legend with two sensational saves as Chivas (7-8-8) held on after the Revolution (4-10-9) twice carved a two-goal deficit in half, the last time in the 86th minute.
“We're happy for the three points, but it wasn't good enough,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPNLosAngeles.com afterward. “The way we played the game and the way we finished the game was not good enough. [I was unhappy with] our inability to close out the game once we went up, 3-1. He should have been able to close out in a slightly more comfortable fashion.
“For us to get to the lofty goals we've set for ourselves, we need to be able to close out a game like that.”
Chivas did well finishing their chances -- they put just four shots on goal, three of those hitting the nets -- but struggled to create. New England had far more opportunities but did little with them, and Revs coach Steve Nicol complained to the media afterward that he “could have been standing here with a 6- or 7-3 victory.” He wasn't lying.
The Revolution missed at least two, maybe three can't-miss opportunities, and Kennedy made two massive stops on Shalrie Joseph, both to preserve one-goal advantages.
French midfielder Laurent Courtois, who came on in the second half for the Goats, was one of three debutants, along with New England's new Designated Player, Milton Caraglio, and spiky-haired 16-year-old Diego Fagundez.
The teen made the biggest impact among the three, winning the penalty for Joseph's 69th-minute finish from the spot (on a Heath Pearce foul at the top of the box; the Goats thought he dived) and scoring in the 86th (after rookie Zarek Valentin misjudged and then misplayed a long ball from Kevin Alston).
Moreno scored from a superb LaBrocca feed in the 31st and from a nifty four-pass sequence in the 80th. LaBrocca finished his own rebound in the 59th.
“[Moreno] was a huge plus,” Fraser said. “He was instrumental in what we were able to do today, to be on the end of dangerous opportunites” and finish them.”
A quick look at Chivas' victory:
BEST PLAYER: Kennedy has quietly risen among MLS's best netminders, and he was outstanding again -- without him, the Goats go down.
Kennedy was required to make two massive saves, both on Joseph. He scrambled to his right to somehow push a header -- from a three-header sequence off Chris Tierney's free kick -- around the right post in the 79th minute, maintaining a 2-1 lead, then made a bigger stop with a 3-2 advantage in stoppage, reaching back with his right hand to redirect a Joseph blast off the right post and back onto the field.
“He was huge,” Fraser said. “He made some tremendous saves, came up big in a number of situations. And I think Dan also lends an air of confidence that helps us get through some of these tough times.”
Kennedy withstood heavy pressure at the start and finish, and he stared down 10 New England corner kicks, but he commanded the space in front of his goal, and his ability to get to crosses and punch them from danger was crucial in preventing the Revs from taking charge in the first 25 minutes.
Moreno and LaBrocca brought quality to the attack, and Courtois, still looking to acclimate to his new teammates, showed a fine attacking sense and played the first pass in the four-pass sequence that led to Moreno's decisive strike.
Joseph nearly created or scored about a half-dozen goals, aside from the PK, and Benny Feilhaber dizzied Chivas' defenders with twisting runs through the box that deserved more than they led to. Fagundez is a player to keep a close eye on.
BEST GOAL: All three elements in Chivas' first goal were mastered nicely. It started at midfield, with Simon Elliott lofting the ball to LaBrocca on the right flank, near the Revs' box. LaBrocca brought it down with his chest, then hit it beautifully off the second bounce, bending the ball into the goalmouth.
New England had defenders in place, and Moreno raced through the middle to find a spot just inside defender Darrius Barnes but in front of goalkeeper Matt Reis' line forward.
LaBrocca's cross bounced in behind Barnes, and Moreno stuck his right leg out and up to connect with the ball, knocking it inside the near post.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Goats weren't great on either side of the ball, finding it nearly impossible to create opportunities -- except from direct play, not exactly their forté, and the Revs' defensive errors.
“At times we played with confidence and moved the ball around, and we looked very good” Fraser said. “I was very happy with sequences throughout the game when we played with precision. When we do that, we're pretty good.”
More troubling was the gaping holes in the back that New England, had it been more precise, could have turned into a a real advantage. The Revs should have been up by two goals by the 22nd minute.
Joseph was left alone at the top of the box, with all the time he needed to deliver a perfect chip to Ryan Cochrane at the right post in the sixth minute. Somehow, Cochrane nodded it past the post.
Tierney's failure to deal with a header from Caraglio with an open shot in the 19th, Cochrane's misplaced header when left alone in the middle in the 65th, and Joseph's chances that Kennedy shined on should have been enough for New England to extend their unbeaten streak to four games.
WORTH NOTING: Chivas climbed back to 10th overall with the victory -- good enough for the final playoff berth -- but face three more road games (next weekend at Seattle, Aug. 20 at Colorado and Aug. 24 at Portland) before they play at home again. ... LaBrocca's goal extended his career-high to seven, matching Justin Braun's team-best total. ... Fraser, on Courtois' appearance: “He got his feet wet, and his touch and ideas on the ball were good. It'll take him awhile to get integrated, but I thought he made a good account of himself.”
FINAL JUDGMENT: “Those were the three points we needed,” LaBrocca said. “I don’t think we’re happy with our performance, especially closing the game out. We had a couple leads, and we let them back into the game, and we made it a little too interesting. And, obviously, had to rely on some great saves from Dan tonight and you don’t really want to do that. But itt’s always great to get three points on the road.”
NEXT: Saturday, Aug. 13, at Seattle, 1 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
New England Revolution 2, Chivas USA 3
C -- Alejandro Moreno (Nick LaBrocca, Simon Elliott) 31
C -- Nick LaBrocca 59
NE -- Shalrie Joseph pen. 69
C -- Alejandro Moreno (Ante Jazic, Justin Braun) 80
NE -- Diego Fagundez (Kevin Alston) 86
New England Revolution: Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, Ryan Cochrane (Pat Phelan, 82), Darrius Barnes, Chris Tierney; Sainey Nyassi, Stephen McCarthy, Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber; Zack Schilawski (Diego Fagundez, 66), Milton Caraglio (Kenny Mansally, 62).
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Michael Umaña, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Simon Elliott (Paulo Nagamura, 76); Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin (Ben Zemanski, 56), Jorge Flores (Laurent Courtois, 66); Alejandro Moreno, Justin Braun. Unused subs: Michael Lahoud, Francisco Mendoza, Marcos Mondaini, Zach Thornton.
Yellow card: Kennedy 69.
Referee: Mark Kadlecik. Att.: 11,523.